All posts in Life, etc.

Two Wheels Down: Oregon Coast

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My first time riding on the back of a motorcycle was when I was seventeen years old. A friend of a friend – a burly yet soft-spoken Belgian man – took me on his Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 through the Scottish Highlands. As I felt the deep rumble of the engine in my belly for the first time, I was certain that this would not be my last time on a bike.

Cut to: present. I am sitting here with dense matted hair and a sweltering patch of wind rash on my face after a 500-mile ride over the past weekend. I am dirty. I am grimy. I am tired. Yet I have a shit-eating grin on my face. Last night my body ached in places I never knew existed – yet somehow, I’m dying to be back on the road again.

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BikeTrip2016-2-smMy long-time travel companion/biker extraordinaire Neil insisted that we wing it, that we go without a plan. I, on the other hand, had a Google doc on the ready.

Me: “We’ll have lunch in Astoria – I found this microbrewery on Yelp – then maybe head over to Fort Stevens at around one o’clo-”
Him: “We’ll go south.”

We ended up doing it his way. We simply went south.

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BikeTrip2016-3-smFrom Seattle we made our way down to South Bend, Long Beach and Manzanita with a couple of detours in between. Unlike Southern California, the 101 on the North Coast is incredibly lush with majestic pine trees hugging the marred coastline. The temperature gently fluctuated as we wove in and out of deep forest enclaves; in the meanwhile, the Great Pacific kept a watchful eye on us beyond the trees. Along the way, we passed fellow bikers, boogie vans, decked out aluminum buses with a coffin on top. Oregon, you keep it weird. I like that.

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BikeTrip2016-5-smThough we only had one full day of riding, the moments spent on that bike have been forever lodged into my bones. As we ripped down the sun-bleached highway through pristine beaches and pine tree groves, we were curiously suspended in time and space. Itineraries and future projections fell to the wayside as my immediate senses emerged to the fore. Life was pared down to its very essence – the engine growling underneath me, the sun beating down on my shoulders, the occasional whiff of kelp and ocean spray, the sweat beads forming on my skin. If freedom were a feeling, this would be it.

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BikeTrip2016-15-smOregon, you were good to us. We will be back soon.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Casita Rincón Criollo

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Casita Rincón Criollo AKA La Casita de Chema is a beautiful garden sanctuary in the South Bronx on the corner of 157th and Brook Ave. It once used to be an abandoned, garbage-filled lot in the 60s and 70s. Founder José Manuel “Chema” Soto used to pass by this lot regularly with his daughter. Finally fed up by the sights of rampant destruction and neglect, he and fifty other residents decided to clean up the lot – a land that they did not own – and turned it into a casita reminiscent of the Puerto Rican countryside. The lush space has been lovingly maintained by volunteers and community organizers since.

RinconCriollo-3-smI had the opportunity to meet José who was one of several volunteers tending the garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon. A natural talker and entertainer, José showed us around the garden lined with lush pear and lemon trees. His eyes glimmered as he talked about their abundant harvest year after year. In a corrugated metal shed, another volunteer was setting up a makeshift meat smoker for a massive pig roast that they were planning to put on for Mother’s Day. “You’re all invited,” José told us warmly as he led us into the main casita.

RinconCriollo-5The main casita was adorned with portraits of the great Chema as well as group shots of past and present members brimming with smiles and camaraderie. Sun-bleached frames and memorabilia hung from the low ceiling; in the center of the room were a row of fold-out tables with plenty of chairs to go around. Hell of a club house if you ask me.

RinconCriollo-4-smRincón Criollo serves as a thriving music venue and a mainstay of Puerto Rican identity in the South Bronx. The pure dedication of community members turning a dilapidated lot into a lush gathering space for their fellow countrymen is one of the many things that I love about this city.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Live at Sidewalk Cafe

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In a city as uncompromising as New York City, women are exposed to a wide array of life narratives and inevitably, many variations of empowerment and feminism. Is strength found in emulating male dominance? Or embracing every layer of womanhood, with all of its delicate complexities?

Since moving here, I have been privileged enough to meet so many strong, talented, empowered women. Sidewalk NYC – a show featuring local female-fronted bands – was a beautiful manifestation of the sheer abundance of passion and talent embodied by the women of NYC. Enjoy.

Lineup:
Leeocious
Delure
Rachel Burrell
Lady Moon and the Eclipse

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Roadtrip: Joshua Tree, CA

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We set out early afternoon on a Tuesday. Miles of sun-bleached asphalt spread before us as the 5 became the 210, the 210 became the 10, the 10 became the 62 – meanwhile, the landscape gave way to a whitewashed garden of industrial windmills and the mountains grew increasingly tapered and gnarled by the harsh climate ahead.

Before moving to New York City, these SoCal mountains were little more than tired backdrops to a painfully familiar suburban existence. “I want weather, I want greenery,” I would proclaim as I dreamt of dewy meadows and redwood trees soaring into the sky. But now, nearly eight years after moving away, my heart aches for these scorched giants silently baking under the sun. Bonfires, first kisses, horribly abstract stoner conversations all took place amidst these undulating mountains. For me, adolescence will always smell like cheap beer, sweet desert clay and hints of peppery sagebrush.

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JoshuaTree-7-smDriving deeper into the High Desert was as cathartic as it was nostalgic. The desert is a place of stark contradiction. Brittle shrubs adorn behemoth mountains. Scorching hot summers give way to frigid winters. The vast emptiness inexplicably fills a spiritual void. We stayed in a 1953 homestead in Joshua Tree National Park, a modest desert cabin complete with a south-facing porch and wood burning stove. We bundled up in layers and layers of blankets and cozied up by the crackling fire, watching the ripe red sun dip into the horizon.

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JoshuaTree-15-smAfter dark, we drove down to Pappy & Harriet’s, a roudy saloon/music venue in Pioneertown. The Solid Ray Woods played an incredible set as the clapboard dance floor was teeming full of happy-drunk locals and out-of-towners swaying back and forth to Ray Woods’ gravel baritone. We shared tables with a couple from Chicago and chatted about local finds and the Amboy ghost town about an hour away.

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JoshuaTree-2-smUpon our return to the cabin, we stoked the wood burning stove once again and fell into a deep liquid sleep. We woke to a quintessential desert sunrise – red like the sunset, comically theatrical yet thoroughly impressive. I stepped out onto the porch wrapped in a thick blanket and watched as the Joshua Trees emerged from the dark, casting long misshapen shadows onto the ground.

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JoshuaTree-3-smWe stopped by Downtown Joshua Tree for a quick coffee and headed over to Noah Purifoy’s outdoor desert menagerie. After exploring Noah’s High Desert curios we headed to Amboy, a ghost town deep in the Californian Mojave. We were greeted by a bleached out gas station, a gaudy sign that read “Roy’s Gasoline” and an abandoned elementary school, all within a stone’s throw. It was dead quiet. We could see for miles in every direction. The ominous Amboy crater loomed in the distance. After exploring the area and taking photos ad nauseum, the large swollen sun began to wane. Damn short winter daylight. We begrudgingly headed back to LA, Neil Young playing on the tinny stereo.

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JoshuaTree-18-smThe desert has a way of reminding us that we are but tiny blemishes in a mind-numbingly large narrative of time and space. As we made our away down the Twentynine Palms Highway, the overwhelmingly static landscape was only disrupted by tiny ramshackle houses and abandoned homesteads that could not stand the test of time. Here’s a rough photographic documentation of Joshua Tree and the surrounding areas in all its glory. Enjoy.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Portrait Studies: Alex and Patrick

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After having connected so well with Alex during this shoot in Greenpoint, it was only a matter of time before she kindly introduced me to her husband, Patrick. “He’s going to love you,” she said. The three of us met up in the Lower East Side for drinks and immediately hit it off over milk stouts and barbecue sammiches.

Fast forward: two months later. Here we are in a beautifully restored Victorian house in rural Connecticut for a quiet autumn getaway. We captured these shots in a small nook as the pale October sun filtered in through the weathered windows. The leaves outside were ten shades of ripened orange and gently cocooned us in warm, blushing light.

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AlexPatrick-15-blogAlex and Patrick both grew up in Meridian, Mississippi. Though they were acquaintances throughout high school, they did not establish a connection until their early twenties when Alex had briefly returned to her hometown after sojourning through Barcelona and Morocco. “The first night we met up, she drank me under the table,” Patrick recalls sweetly. “We’ve been inseparable since.”

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AlexPatrick-2-blogQuite the nomadic couple, Alex and Patrick have lived in Angers, France, Nashville, TN, Boston, Mass., Philadelphia, PA, and now – New York City. Each city adds a new layer of strength and character – not to mention a roster of hilarious anecdotes – to their thriving relationship. I am beyond grateful to have found myself in their meandering path.

AlexPatrick-6-blogHere’s to love, friendship and making the most out of our time here in NYC.

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.